October 30, 1988 - From the October, 1988 issue

TPR October 1988 - Full Issue

As part of the TPR Online Archive, this issue includes an interview with Carolyn Green, AQMD's Deputy Executive Director and a case study by Central City West Associates.

Land Use News in Review

3 New Faces at Planning Commission

The Planning Commission has undergone some changes recently. Members elected William Luddy, a Carpenters union official, as president, to succeed departing member Daniel Garcia. Mayor Bradley has also appointed three new members to the five-person commission: William Christopher, an architect and the head of a coalition of 13 Westside homeowner associations; Theodore Stein, an Encino developer who was recommended by Councilman Hal Bernson; and Carmen Estrada, an attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty who served on the RTD board.

Governor Signs Two Clean-Air Bills & Vetoes High-Rise Sprinkler Legislation

Deukmejian’s signature on the Sher & Presley Bills result from pressure to bring California up to Federal Clean-Air Standards. The Sher Bill requires local air quality agencies to take regulatory actions that will bring about a 5% annual reduction in smog. The Presley Bill toughens the State’s motor vehicle inspection program. The High-Rise Sprinkler Bill was vetoed so as not to preempt a stronger L.A. City Ordinance.

Galanter Plan: Eliminate New Traffic

At the first meeting of a special air pollution committee of the City Council, Councilwoman Ruth Galanter proposed a plan to bar any new development projects which increase traffic and air pollution. Traffic mitigation measures, such as widening streets, currently exist in the city, but Galanter’s measure would broaden the conditions needed for building approvals. Under Galanter’s plan, developers would have to either fund van pools and public transit programs, or use clean fuel-burning vehicles to eliminate increased traffic caused by new development.

CRA Raises Statistics, Not Limit

Councilman Ernani Bernardi has indicated that he opposes Mayor Bradley’s program to raise the spending limit form $750 million to $5 billion and to use revenues from the Community Redevelopment Agency for new low-cost housing, street improvements, and an after-school child care program. Bernardi believes the money should go back to the city, the county, and the Board of Education. In a recent study by the Legal Aid Foundation, the Community Redevelopment Agency was accused of grossly inflating its statistics on the amount of low-cost housing they have developed. The study noted that the CRA includes homeless shelter cots and other men-only units under the “family housing” category. Mayor Bradley consequently instructed CRA administrator John Tuite to review the charges within the new two weeks.

Environmental Enforcement

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office has recently been filing criminal charges against firms and individuals for alleged violations of air pollution control regulations. The South Coast Air Quality Management District investigators are credited with bringing cases to the district attorney’s office.

Ban in the Hills?

City Councilman Michael Woo proposed an interim ordinance to temporarily halt new construction in the Hollywood Hills for one year. The construction ban would include any new homes in the canyons between the Hollywood and San Diego freeways. The ordinance was proposed to limit the increase of traffic in the canyons.

Galanter Endorses Slow-Growther

Councilwoman Ruth Galanter will support slow-growth activist Laura Lake for the fifth councilmanic seat should Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky runs for mayor. Galanter said Lake “does not represent developers or play politics as usual.”

New Transportation Chief

Stephen Edwin Rowe was named by Mayor Bradley to become the permanent general manager of the Department of Transportation. Rowe, the interim chief of the department, was the assistant chief for eight years.

City Truck Ban

Mayor Bradley has detailed a Rush Hour Truck Ban which aims to reduce by 50% the amount of heavy-duty truck travel during peak commuter periods. The proposal calls for a 6 a.m. - 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. ban on heavy trucks on city streets; certificates for exempting other trucks, approximately 30% of truck traffic, would be issued. Trucks not exempt would be cited and fined by police if operated during peak hours. The system, if approved by the City Council, would have a definite impact on shippers and receivers requiring expanded delivery hours.

Mar Vista Apt. Heights Lowered

The L.A. City Council just voted to lower height limits on future apartment buildings along a section of Centinela Boulevard in Mar Vista. The vote follows upon a two-year battle which formerly began with a homeowner petition for a moratorium in early 1987 to then Councilwoman Pat Russell. With now Councilwoman Ruth Galanter's support, the height limits are now a reality. By a 10-0 vote, the Council also reduced zoning along a one-mile stretch of Centinela, running from Venice Boulevard north to Stanwood Drive and including a small section of Bundy Drive. The homeowners assert that new apartment buildings bring parking, crime, and traffic problems in addition to overwhelming the area by creating a towering wall of glass and concrete.




The Planning Report’s Conversation with Carolyn Green, AQMD’s Deputy Executive Director

            Los Angeles’ path to clean air is fraught with conflict and tension. Recent activities by the Air Quality Management District have led to fears of “immediate intervention into land use and transportation planning,” notes former Planning Commission president Daniel Garcia. “The people at AQMD are engineers, not social theorists. As a single-purpose agency, they ignore the realities of growth and employment.” In order to consider the Air Quality Management District and what it portends for growth and development, The Planning Report met with Carolyn Green, deputy executive officer for planning and analysis. A recent SCAG-AQMD report, “The Path to Clean Air” (1987), discusses strategies necessary to reduce the ozone and carbon monoxide levels in Southern California. The report, which recognizes that the cost of attainment will be high, states that “Our historic success in reducing emissions from mobile and stationary sources can easily be overwhelmed by tomorrow’s growth.”

What do you think of the criticism by developers that the AQMD, as a single-purpose agency, is involved in issues for which it has no specialized expertise?

Our programs won’t work if developers think that what we’re saying is crazy. But there is definitely a willingness on the part of the development community to discuss the issues. The BIA has indicated a openness as well. A lot of redevelopment has proceeded until recently without regard for emissions regulation and without taking responsibility for air quality control. But I’m sure we will work together.

How will AQMD now affect developers?

Some people say that the AQMD is running roughshod over local governments in the name of air quality. But when we consider our indirect source review program, what we would be asking developers is that the development project offsets whatever emissions they think it will create. That’s what new industry will have to do. If someone wants to put in a new piece of equipment that is going to pollute the air, they have to clear up a corresponding number of emissions somewhere else to make up for it, so as not to exacerbate our existing problem. That’s what we will probably be saying to developers when there’s a large project or large housing development.

Aren’t local governments already focusing on these issues with developers?

To a great extent local governments are requiring developers to take a look at air quality mitigation measures, but there’s no follow-through to see if it is actually done. City governments adopt all of those measures as part of the development package after you have done the Environmental Impact Report, but 10-15 years into the future, they compare what is actually on the ground with what was approved, and quite often it doesn’t look anything like the initial approved plan. Local governments adopt mitigation measures and then feel it’s up to the developer to carry them out. There’s no mechanism to make sure that gets done.

How do you expect that this new relationship with developers will actually play out with local governments?

Local governments already have regulatory power to insist on various regulations. They can discount filing fees which are not insubstantial; they can encourage commercial projects in job-poor areas and housing development in job-rich areas. Local governments should be better able to maintain a job/housing balance through their regulatory power. While air quality might be considered a political issue at times, it will inevitably be a concern for local governments in their planning. And I think that local economic planning committees could also be doing more.

It sounds as if developers will be asked to shoulder much of the burden for air quality control.

Yes, developers will have to shoulder much of the cost of air quality improvement, but, indirect sources of air pollution stem from land use. You also have to realize that any adjustments that are made will ultimately help developers. By underwriting a transportation system, or by focusing on the jobs/housing balance, developers won't have to spend so much room for parking. Right now with any major housing project, from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 parking spots are needed for each housing unit. If we can decrease the amount of parking needed because of the transportation component of development projects, developers can use that parking space for other possibilities.

For how long has AQMD been overlooking transportation and development issues?

Well, you should realize what preceded AQMD. Air pollution is very old in California. In L.A. County, the Air Pollution Control Agency was started back in the 40's to regulate back yard burning and those things which were going to get rid of smog in Los Angeles. So much for that. But by the early 70's, it became clear that we weren't going to solve the smog problem in Southern California on such a piecemeal basis. Each individual county did what it figured was best. Bad air doesn't observe political boundaries.

In 1976 four counties-- Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino County-- merged by a joint powers agreement and called themselves the Southern California Unified Air Pollution Control District. At the same time they were seeking legislation to form one agency. The AQMD was authorized by state legislation, but unlike other public agencies, it is not funded by tax revenues. Rather, we're funded by emission fees from operators of stationary equipment which pollutes the air. Permits have to be renewed annually, and 90% of our revenues come from fees that we levy on industry.

What did the legislature want AQMD to do?

Our charge and our responsibilities are set forward in state law. We're responsible for stationary source pollution and that includes the individual identifiable sources like a refinery or a power plant or a manufacturing facility, and it also includes smaller things that you really wouldn't think about like dry cleaners or char broilers in Wendy's. In 1987, the legislature passed another piece of legislation, S.B. 151 by Sen. Pressley, which expanded some of the responsibilities and said quite clearly that we also need to take a look at the indirect sources of air pollution--sources that don't necessarily pollute alone and do not need an air pollution permit. This would include an office project or a shopping center, an entertainment facility, or maybe even a housing development project, but because it's there--it attracts additional trips which is a direct source of air pollution.

Are there any commercial buildings which attract jobs or consumers which are not indirect sources?

No. The question then becomes at what level does it make some sense to regulate. Our Regulation 15 ride share requirement says that employers attract vehicle trips. Employers could be using their status to encourage their employees to use other sources of travel than the single occupancy vehicle. They can use incentives like providing preferred parking for car pools or they can offer a free or reduced price on a bus pass. They could provide showers for bikers. Or they could provide disincentives like taking away free parking. The employer is spending a lot of money for parking--it's one of the most expensive land uses we have. Employers could increase employee's pay a certain amount and charge the same amount for parking. The AQMD is doing exactly that with our new union contract, and employees are making more money each month by carpooling. S.B. 151 requires the district to look at the whole issue of economic incentives in the air pollution business.

What authority oversees AQMD’s activities?


We don't really have a specific watchdog like a county agency which reports ultimately to the Board of Supervisors. We have a 12 member board of elected officials, and nine are locally elected officials. But if AQMD doesn't carry out its statutory responsibilities, the State Air Resources Board can review whatever is going on. If they make a negative finding at a public hearing, they can move to adopt a rule or regulation to correct it, but that never happens.

In the recent SCAG-AQMD report, you make emissions projects for the next 20 years. What kind of job is AQMD doing now in air quality control?

Through the Air Quality Management planning process, we publish a Reasonable Further Progress which charts what we have done and what our shortfalls are. There was a problem because there are lots of measures in the 1070 and 1982 air quality plans for the region which called for local governments to take specific actions especially related to land use and transportation responsibilities. But there was no real way to force that to happen, and as soon as oil prices plummeted and gasoline was much cheaper, all of a sudden we saw the quantity of vehicle trips and travel go through the ceiling. As a result, we've got a significant shortfall in our emission reduction progress. We have also not seen local governments take some of the local regulatory functions that they can take.

You mentioned that AQMD called upon local governments to take action. What power does AQMD have to force legal governments to pursue their regulatory power?

We're rather like SCAG--lots of authority but no power, at least in the local government area. There are those who argue that we have become the surrogate regional planning agency. I would disagree with that. I think our power is the power of moral suasion rather than the book-tight regulatory authority that we can bank on in court.





Statement of Councilwoman Ruth Galanter


Ad Hoc Air Quality Committee - August 24, 1988


I'd like to thank Council President John Ferraro for appointing me to this body. It's a great opportunity and a serious challenge, and I look forward to both.

Today's meeting of the Ad Hoc Air Quality Committee of the City Council is the first salvo in what is likely to be a long, hard battle. That battle, to clear the air in the Los Angeles basin, is entering a new phase, a major action phase.

With the help of the federal Clean Air Act and technological advances in the auto industry and others, we've taken the beginning steps toward improving our air quality. We've reduced our level of violation of federal standards by about 50%, which is excellent. But we did that by doing the easy stuff. What comes next is the hard stuff ...

Today I introduced a motion in Council to give this City and its citizens a powerful tool to meet our responsibilities in the fight for cleaner air. It will be referred to this committee for hearings. I am proposing that we develop a program to formally tie air quality and land use decisions through vehicle emissions. This program will identify the vehicle mileage connected with various land uses and propose a range of available mitigation measures. It will take into account the distribution of housing and jobs in the City and provide an incentive for developers to move the jobs closer to the housing, and vice-versa. It will require that projects above a certain size threshold use a variety of legitimate measures to reduce their net additional vehicle mileage impact to nothing, zero, zip.

Importantly, this new public policy spreads the burden of reducing vehicle emissions instead of penalizing only the individual commuters …

M O T I O N 

Southern California suffers the nation's most severe air pollution problem. Our air is substantially more polluted than the air in any other region of the country. This chronic and persistent air pollution problem results in $11 billion in respiratory-related medical costs each year, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). Air pollution shortens the lives of our citizens and creates substantial public health impacts.

While the region presently has no federally approved air quality improvement plan, the SCAQMD and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) are presently developing a comprehensive new air quality plan. 

Because motor vehicle usage is a major cause of air pollution in Southern California, a substantial portion of the proposed SCAQMD plan works towards “maintaining the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and the number of trips at current levels." Yet, by 2010, the total VMT is expected to increase by 68% over 1985 levels unless changes are made in the way Southern Californians get around.

In order to hold the line on VMT, commuters. employers and all levels of government must enact and abide by significant measures which reduce the use of motor vehicles. The alternative is, as proposed by the SCAQMD and SCAG "restrictions on driving, licensing and vehicle registration ... "

The City of Los Angeles, through its land use and permitting procedures, should ensure that economic growth and development do not negate their beneficial aspects by creating costly and unhealthful additional air pollution generated from motor vehicle traffic. Builders and developers should be required to mitigate the air pollution which will result from their projects, just as other impact mitigations are normally required. Air pollution mitigations should apply as an overlay to existing zoning controls rather than as a substitute.

Improved air quality can be enjoyed by promoting an improved area-wide jobs/housing balance and by eliminating or mitigating traffic generating projects in neighborhoods which are already congested.

To defend against the assault of air pollution of our lives and our lungs it is essential that the City of Los Angeles undertake a systematic and comprehensive program to reduce the number and length of vehicle trips, and the subsequent air pollution, generated by new development.

NOW, I THEREFORE MOVE, that the City Attorney, the Department of City Planning and the Department of Transportation develop for presentation to the City Council a program to apply to new land use development in the City of Los Angeles which includes, but is not limited to, the following provisions:

  1. Establish an Impact Threshold based on the scale, nature and impact of a development to determine which projects will be subject to this program.
  2. Establish an Air Pollution Impact Zone (APIZ) around each proposed project which surpasses the Impact Threshold. The project shall be at the center of an APIZ which is a circle the radius of which is equal to the current one-way average commuter trip in the South Coast Air Basin (presently estimated by SCAG to be 19.4 miles).
  3. Require that the Departments of City Planning and Transportation determine the total number of Vehicle Miles Traveled in that zone through procedures developed by those departments and approved by the City Council. These procedures shall consider the relationship between land use type, square footage, jobs/housing balance and other relevant factors.
  4. Require that the project applicant provide to the City an Air Pollution Mitigation Schedule (APMS) for the project which demonstrates that the project will result in no net increase of VMT in the APIZ, taking into account credits gained through the use of in-basin mitigation measures.
  5. Establish that an applicant can reduce the VMT of a proposed project through the employment of such VMT mitigation measures as funding or otherwise facilitating van pools, shuttles, buses or rail transit, offsetting stationary sources of pollution, rescheduling truck traffic and deliveries, using clean vehicles, regulating access to parking, and other methods, subject to the approval of the City.
  6. Establish that this program shall not apply to the development of low income housing and to public health and safety facilities. Government buildings subject to regulation by the City of Los Angeles shall comply with this program.
  7. Establish an application and processing procedure which will minimize the delays imposed upon projects subject to the program.
  8. Establish a fee to fund the program bases on its administrative cost to the City.


Specific Plans – A New Development Strategy

Central City West Associates: A Case Study

A unique public-private partnership is currently developing specific plans for a 150 acre area of mixed residential and commercial development just west of downtown. The city of Los Angeles, realizing the need for a thorough examination of development of the area, did not have the resources on its own to undertake the large project.

Central City West Associates is an organization of major landowners and employers located in the planning area bounded by the Hollywood Freeway, Witmer/Union Avenue, Olympic Boulevard, and the Harbor Freeway. Its inception was encouraged by the city. "The Planning Commission for a long time held up redevelopment projects on the westside of the Harbor Freeway because of the critical shortage of circulation capacity," comments former commission president Daniel Garcia. "We would not develop that region on a piecemeal basis. Only a thorough analysis of transportation and land use would create the possibility of large development projects. We did everything to force a coalition of landowners.

CCWA, founded in 1985, began studying transportation in the area, and by December, 1986, had realized that the area had potential, though not until a transportation component was seriously addressed. CCWA consequently went to the city in early 1987 to discuss a transportation specific plan for the region. The vision for the region was for a unique urban village, a cluster of new buildings with housing and job opportunities, with public and "privatized" open space.

“We were sensitive to a lack of implementation of regional planning,” said CCWA project manager David Grannis. "We were trying to correct the jobs/housing imbalance, but if we went to the city to budget a specific plan, it would have taken five years. It's rare that the private sector initiates a specific plan with the city and pays for it." The CCWA consequently spent $750,000 to undertake a specific plan which included a land use plan, a housing element, and a transportation component.

The city is represented in the partnership by Councilmembers Gloria Molina and Gil Lindsay whose districts share the plan area, and the Planning Department and the Department of Transportation. The city will be responsible for formulating the final integrated transportation and land use specific plan ordinances presented to the City Council for adoption. In addition, an Interim Control Ordinance ensured that any proposed projects in the area won't prejudice the specific plan.

For large scale projects in Los Angeles, the CCWA exemplifies the relationship developers must have with the city. "This reflects the reality of the continuing budget crises of the city since Proposition 13," noted Grannis. "The money was not there in the city to do the plan. In terms of the cooperative venture, the private sector must pay for a large portion, but the public sector also has to make a project plausible by helping the process along and removing many prohibitive restraints from housing production." In other words, if developers are focusing on the jobs/housing imbalance or offsetting the transportation impact of a project, the public sector has to help guarantee that the project is implemented.

Two distinctive characteristics of Central City West which must be considered before applying the specific plan model to other areas of the city are, first, the fluidity of the residents of the community and, second, the land ownership which is highly concentrated among long-standing owners. 

The CCWA project has the advantage that it is large enough and flexible enough to address such issues as a jobs/housing imbalance and any transportation concerns. It would be more difficult for a single building project to respond to transportation and environmental concerns in the same way. As Grannis points out, "We can tackle such issues as child care, open space, and proximity of housing to employment. How can one office building work with the same amount of flexibility?"

The specific plan is now one third of the way towards completion. The data collection is now complete and the work program commenced in March, 1988. CCWA appointed the firm of Meyer, Allen & Partners as master plan consultants.

CCWA Plan Area

NOTE: The City and CCWA have established a steering committee comprised of representatives from CCWA, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Planning, the Office of Councilwoman Gloria Molina and the Office of Councilman Gilbert Lindsay (the "Steering Committee") to oversee the preparation of the transportation and land use specific plan.

NOTE: CCW A is a non-profit association of private property owners located in the west area of the Harbor Freeway, consisting of approx. 400 acres of commercial, industrial, residential, and adjoining parking zoned land bounded by the Hollywood Freeway on the north, the Harbor Freeway on the east, Olympic Blvd. on the south, and Witmer/Union Ave. on the west.

Court Decisions May Result in Stricter Controls

Regulatory control of development projects was given a boost recently in a Central District Court case, Coalition for Clean Air v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, which pressures the EPA to develop air quality plans for the region to meet the federal standards of the Clean Air Act.

Once plans are developed by the EPA, many predict that stricter controls in development will result "Our sense is that there will be more reporting and monitoring of air quality attainment deadlines,'' says Bart Doyle, legal counsel for the Builders Industry Association. "There will be tighter transportation controls, fees will be levied, and we will be looking at alternative fuels and methods of transportation."

The latest ruling states that the EPA has an obliga­tion to develop ozone and smog plans for Los Angeles to meet federal standards. "The South Coast has never developed a plan which meets the federal requirements of the Clean Air Act," comments Alan Waltner, attorney for the Coalition for Clean Air.

Urban Design Advisory Coalition

Future issues will feature articles on the urban evolution of Los Angeles by members of the Urban Design Advisory Coalition. UDAC members include prominent Los Angeles architects, urban designers, academicians, and arts professionals who have come together to create a forum for the discussion and advocacy of vital urban issues, issues which cry out for thoughtful analysis and public review.

UDAC's goals are to research areas of interest in regional planning, to inform the public at large, and to ultimately initiate and advocate responses to challenges in city making.

Additional information about Urban Design Advisory Coalition can be obtained from Kurt Meyer of Meyer & Allen, 2690 Beachwood Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068, (213) 467-7151.



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